tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN December 4, 2015 12:00pm-1:01pm EST
we take you live now to the heritage foundation for a discussion on u.s. global counterterrorism strategy and what the current obama administration strategy could mean for the next u.s. president. the event just getting started. live coverage on c-span 3. >> out of courtesy to our presenters and those recording the events. you can send questions or comments to us at any time, simply e-mailing email@example.com. of course we'll post the program on the heritage home page following this presentation for everyone's future reference. hosting our discussion and opening the program will be dr. james j.karifano from the
national security and foreign policy studies. he's also the ew richardson fellow. he's a noted historian, has served on the board of trustees of the marine corps university foundation advisory boards for the center for article history. he's also been an adjunct professor as georgetown university and virginia polytechnic and state university. join me in welcoming jim. [ applause ] >> thank you all for coming. we have about an hour and a half scheduled for this event. so what i would like each of our panelists to do is speak at length on their particular area. then we'll have some time for question and discussion at the end. if you have questions, please, you know, keep those in mind, and i'll come back up after our panelists talk, then i'll recognize people. we have microphones. if you would wait for a
microphone bankruptefore you as question, that would be great. we'll have plenty of time for a great exchange. i really believe there will be so many things worth talking about. this is an event i've really wanted to do for a long time. when president obama first came into office, and they would ask me and other analysts about what was changing, we used to joke and say, it's kind of bush light, because in many ways in the first year or two of the administration, many instruments and practices that the obama administration used were in many ways almost virtually identical to what the bush administration had done, except they used different rhetoric and verbiage, but it looked pretty much the same. but over the course of the first half of the president's administration, i really think you saw the president put his stamp on how to combat transnational terrorism around the world with withdrawal of troops from iraq, the way the surge was shaped in afghanistan,
publishing a new counterterrorism strategy, which i think isn't just a piece of paper, it very much reflects how the administration really sought to combat global transnational terrorism worldwide. and when we analyze that document, we were actually cite critical. and we said, to be blunt, we don't think this is going to work, we think transnational terrorism will be a bigger problem down the road than it is today. and so i long wanted to bring together a panel of experts, not just to say, gotcha, who's right and who's wrong, but to really kind of honestly assess what is the state of the transnational terrorist threat today. this is long before we had this tragic shooting in san bernadino or the events in paris that we've been working on organizing this. but it so happens, this panel happens at a time when we have some very high profile events going on. this is a terrific panel. and what i would like to do is
very briefly introduce you to them in the order in which i'm going to ask them to speak, and then after they've each had an opportunity to make some comments at length, we'll get into a broader discussion period. first is katie gorkos, president of the threat knowledge group, as well as the council on global security, from 2009-2014 she was executive director of the west minister work. both her and her husband who are i think recognized as really two of the most thoughtful analysts, you do get synergy there when you marry people together like that, you get more than the sum. it's great to have her here. you might be familiar with a very important book that she co-ed co-edited, and she just has a recent research report out which has gotten an enormous amount of press. we've asked her to talk about
the domestic terrorist threat. obviously that's something on our minds. lisa kurdis, our analyst here at the heritage foundation, who covers south asia issues. south asia is an important piece of the puzzle, when we think about what the future of the transnational terrorist threat will be. lisa is a remarkable analyst, not just because of her analytical abilities, but because of her service around the world. without question she is one of the most well-respected analysts, not just here but the region in which this matters. people there turn to her to understand what's going on. jim phillips is also an analyst here at heritage. he has the distinction of being the oldest analyst here, not the oldest in years, but the longest-serving analyst here at heritage. he's not older than the middle east, but he has been studying that region for a great deal of
time, and he is without question one of the most saought-after ad respected analysts, in the greater middle east, including north africa. having bruce hoffman here is a particular honor. i've been waiting to say this all day. bruce has been studying terrorism as long as i've known my fiance, which is over 40 years, which says a lot about both of us in terms of our perseverance and our ability to conclude things. truth in advertising, bruce is also my boss. he's the director of the center for strategic studies at georgetown university, which is really one of the premier national security education programs, not just in washington but in the entire country. he's had long service at rand, where he is literally one of the most recognized experts in the world. and he just completed an important term as an independent commission that reviewed the workings of the fbi and how they
have adapted to dealing with transnational terrorism and radicalization after 9/11. and so to have him here to kind of put a capstone on all of that is really, really important. and then to round out our panel, we have sarah carter. so you probably heard about the carter tv character on marvel, maybe not. this is the real carter. she goes to all the dangerous parts of the world. she's one of the most effective and bravest investigative reporters you could ask for. i asked her to come to really kind of bring kind of the first person narrative to this, because they're going to talk about what trends are going on in the world. she's been out and seen how those trends have touched people on the ground. i think that's an enormously important perspective. so it's great to have her here. so having said that, i'm going to turn it over to katie, and we are going to take off. and you can stay there or come up to the podium, whatever you want to do. the floor is yours.
join me in welcoming our panel, please. [ applause ] >> well, it's really a delight to be here. thank you, jim, for bringing us all together. i'm very happy to be here. i don't want to use my precious time to run through the proof that isis is a threat domestically. i think everybody in this audience knows that and doesn't need to be convinced of it. if you still do, shameless self-promotion, we have written a report on it. i just suggest you go there, it's on our website, "isis: threat to the united states." what we argue there is isis has the means, the intent, as well as the domestic supporters. i think san bernadino was evidence of that. i would like to actually leave that particular aspect of the argument aside for the moment and focus instead on three
aspects of this conversation that i think need to be amplified, three ways to look at this, three issues to be thinking more about, and why we're having such a hard time with this. i would like to start by recalling the 1972 olympics. most of you -- i'm trying to gauge the age of the audience here. actually a good number of you might still remember this. the terrible attack on the israeli athletes. the aspect of that event that i think is interesting for today's purpose is, and i think this is largely forgotten today, the germans asked a forensic psychologist prior to the olympic picks, to map out potential terrorist scenarios. george seaver is the man tasked with this. he did it, and surprisingly, his
scenario 21 matched very closely to what ended up happening. and even though he was able to give to the german government these various scenarios, and they had even asked for it, they still did not act on it. why did they not act on this information, when they knew there might be a very real threat to some of the members of the -- some of the participants in the olympics? and the reason was, if you remember, germany was trying to get over the terrible image of the 1936 olympics. so these were supposed to be the happy games, the carefree games. and so they did not heed any of the warnings of the psychologist that they had employed. and in a sense, they politicized the threat assessment. and i would argue we're doing the very same thing today. we have really downplayed the nature of this threat for political reasons. and i think -- i mean, you can trace it back to all -- various
points in time. but for me a particularly important turning point in this process was the fall of 2011, when the administration sent out a directive both to department of justice as well as to department of defense, saying all counterterrorism training needed to be reviewed, all the slides had to be reviewed, and all the counterterrorism trainers themselves had to be scrutinized. many of the people who had spent their careers, or at least, you know, a good decade if not longer studying this threat, were then henceforth forbidden from training further. and a series -- so we lost many of our best experts on the topic. and processes were implemented. so, for example, now, if you want to go in and train the fbi on terrorism, your slides have
to be scrutinized by an anonymous reviewer. we don't know their expertise. people who are presenting the training are ph.d.'s, people who have been studying this for their entire careers, yet they're being challenged on the content of what they're training for political reasons. why does it matter? well, i think most importantly, it's because it has left our law enforcement unprepared for the threat that we are now facing. because the administration has downplayed the seriousness of this threat, both abroad, which you'll probably hear about from the other panelists, i'll just focus on the domestic threat, our law enforcement has not been adequately trained. so we have two issues. on the one hand, the narrative has been put out that the real threat is from right wing extremism, and so then if you look at surveys of law enforcement, and if you had asked them, probably it's not
true anymore, but if you had asked them a year ago, there were surveys were law enforcement, you know, would say their biggest concern was right wing extremism, because in a sense that's what they had been told. so our law enforcement is not prepared today to face the threat that we're facing. and that's a disservice to them and to the american people. and i think one last piece of this i'll just mention is that the department of justice, much of the training that they've been carrying out, rather than focusing on the nature of the threat, they're focusing on protection of civil rights. they're so concerned about people not being offended that this is what they're going out and training on, not the seriesneserie seriousness or the nature of the threat. i would say my first message is, we need to stop downplaying, stop politicizing the threat. my second is, and i'm so glad to hear this coming up all day today on the news, let's stop focusing on the reasons why
people engage in terrorism. did anybody ever once ask why does a person become a white supremacist? did we ever ask why does a person become a nazi? it's ludicrous. we didn't ask that question. we didn't care about that question. what we knew is they were engaging in something that was evil, and we had to condemn it and we had to stop it. and that seems like such a simple thing to say. but it's really actually a deeply complicated problem. and i think it's going to be a very difficult one for us to tackle. and the reason for that in a sense goes back to munich. after that terrible attack in 1972, and as well as the general rise in terrorism, if you remember there was, you know, the wave of hijackings to cuba
in the '60s, a very sharp rise in terrorism in the 1960s and '70s, so people started asking the question, why do people engage in terrorism? i think there was the hope or the thought or the desire that there might be some psychological explanation. these people are demented, they've been abused by their fathers, they've been abandoned by their mothers. there were a lot of theories, all of which have really subsequently been disproved. so the angle of inquiry, is there a psychology of terrorism, really has not yielded anything useful. and then equally, i think, frustrating, there was the desire to pursue that question, but also the sociology of terrorism. in a sense this has become more prevalent in the last two
decades. there came a period in the 1980s were people who were sort of working on social movement theory started saying, what if we start applying social movement theory to islamic radicalism, and it became islamic activism. and again, the focus was, let's look for causes. let's look for upstream causes, why do people engage in terrorism. and you're hearing -- i mean, this is all we've been hearing for the last couple of days, what is it about this couple that they did this thing. is it because the guy's mother and father, you know, that he had an abusive father, a mother who was in a relationship with an alcoholic? it really doesn't matter. and i think the problem with that line of inquiry is it takes the sense of judgment away from what they're doing. it's like we're looking for justification. and in a sense we're almost turning them into victims.
if you think about the very term, for someone to be radicalized, it's like something's been done to them, right? there's no free will, no agency in it. and i think it's really the wrong way to look at it. it's leading us down the wrong path. it's not instructive for law enforcement. it's not going to help us stop the terrorism. and i would like to see us get away from that. lastly, we need to think a lot harder about the ideology. and that's what we're not doing. again, by focusing on things like the psychology of terrorism, or these upstream factors, the sociology of terrorism, what we're doing is, we're not talking about the ideology that's driving people into terrorism. and what's so interesting is, if you look at the different cases, so for example our study focuses on the cases in the united states since march 2014 of people who have been interdicted by law enforcement.
our study is a little bit broader than most others. most other people focus on just the arrests. ours are the people who have been interdicted by law enforcement. that means there are four who have been killed, seven unnamed minors, as well as those who have actually been arrested. and there's another study that's been done that kind of goes through each individual case. and the conclusion is, every case is different, right? every case is sui jenngenera j sui generis. you won't find raw conclusions there. the commonality to all of them is the ideology that isis is perpetrating. and it's one of the areas that we have really neglected. it's one of the areas that i think law enforcement is feeling very frustrated by, because they
are not being allowed right now to go after the ideologues. we have people in this country that are really -- i mean, we have both isis recruiters, but more importantly, we have people who are promoting the ideas that justify what isis and other islamist groups are doing. we need to pay more attention to that. lastly, i just want to say, it's important to remember that what's going on now, that the terrorism that's going on now in this country, this is war. this is not crime. and they are very different things. and we have to keep sight of that. warfare cannot be an extreme tool of private parties. that was one of the -- i mean, if not the paramount achievement of western civilization, is that warfare became a legal
instrument. it became part of the coercive pour of law itself. and that's how we brought an end to all the private wars of the dark ages. it's incredibly important. and we're not talking about this broader sort of moral dimension to what's going on. terrorism, the acts of terrorism that are going on in the world, but especially i would say the acts of terrorism inspired by isis that are going on in this country, are a direct assault on this achievement of our civilization. and they will threaten to disrupt a lot. and it's not merely that it's a terrible thing for innocent victims. but it's the broader construct of our civilization and state control of power that's at risk here. and i think we need to be having this broader conversation about how important it is that we
recognize this seriousness of these threats and these attacks that are going on in our country. i didn't mean to end on such a serious note, but there you have it. thank you. [ applause ] hello. thank you for coming today. thank you, jim, for your nice introduction. so i just want to emphasize what jim opened with, which is that four and a half years ago, after the elimination of osama bin laden, what we saw is the obama administration start to downplay the international terrorist threat. and we saw the administration use the elimination of osama bin laden to justify a u.s. troop drawdown in afghanistan. in 2013, president obama referred to al qaeda's leadership as on the path to defeat. well, around the same time, in
august 2011, the heritage foundation released a report, "counterterrorism: the next wave," and in that report we warned against underplaying the international terrorist threat to continued to threaten our country, and we argued against underresourcing efforts to fight that threat. and we noted that despite the fact that our drone strikes had degraded al qaeda's leadership in pakistan's tribal border areas, al qaeda was adapting to the threat, and they were beginning to spread their deadly ideology through affiliated and associated organizations throughout the middle east and north africa. and today, al qaeda and isis control more territory in this region than they have at any other time in history. so i'm going to talk about the terrorism threats that emanate from south asia. so let me start with afghanistan.
so the afghan security forces still require u.s. and nato support to fight the taliban. they require our training, our battlefield advice, our intelligence, and especially our air support. and i think that became evident when the taliban was able to overtake the city of kunduz in september. i think it was that takeover of kunduz that finally convinced president obama that he need to extend the u.s. troop presence in afghanistan beyond 2016. and he committed in mid-october to leaving 5,500 troops in afghanistan when he departs office in 2017. now, this is a welcome step, but frankly it would have been better if he had simply said we're keeping the 9,800 troops that are there now, we'll recess the ground situation next year.
it would have been better if he would have dropped all arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal. but admittedly, it was a step in the right direction. so one of the most important things that is happening in afghanistan right now is the leadership crisis in the taliban. and i think the u.s. should take advantage of these splits. some people would argue that it's easier to negotiate with a unified taliban. but i would argue that while it may make it more difficult in the short run to negotiate with a fracturing taliban, over the longer term, a fractured taliban is a weakened taliban, and it will pose less of a threat to the u.s., nato, and afghteghan forces. what's been happening? the taliban leader has rejected the leadership of mansour, who was made the successor to mullah
umar when it was announced that he had been dead for two years. what rasul is saying is there were suspicious circumstances rounding the death of mullah umar and he thinks mansour is lying about the circumstances of that death, even accusing him of murdering mullah umar, and he accuses mullah aktar of being too close to pakistan's intelligence service, sort of making himself out to be more patriotic and not cooperating with a foreign intelligence service. so fighting has broken out in zabul province. some reports say that 100 people have been killed in this infighting, the factional fighting between the taliban factions. there have even been reports that aktar mansoul may have been wounded or even killed just this week in queta in a shootout
among different taliban factions. the taliban is denying this so we have to see what is happening. what is clear is there are problems within the taliban and a great deal of factional in-fighting. and isis is taking advantage of this. just like in syria, where we see al nusra, the al qaeda-affiliated al nusra fighting isis, we're starting to see isis elements fighting taliban. isis has been able to establish some presence, particularly in eastern nangahar province, as well as some pockets of influence in zabul province. some of this admittedly are disgruntled taliban who are rebranding themselves or pakistani taliban that have fled the fighting from the pakistan military's operations in north
waziristan. but clearly isis has its sights on afghanistan and is seeking to make inroads there. so this started back in january, when isis launched what it calls the corazan group in south asia. that's what it's calling itself in south asia. this is actually an islamic historical term for the area that encompasses what's now afghanistan and the boardiborde states of afghanistan. according to the sayings of the prophet mohammed, south central asia maintains a key role in establishing a global caliphate. the ambassador who was the pakistan ambassador to the u.s. and a prominent writer on developments in this part of the world has written about how one hadith refers to a battle of india, and this is the final battle between muslims and
non-muslims which would occur before the end times. and furthermore, another hadith says an army with black flags will emerge from corazan to help the redeemer of islam establish the caliphate at mecca. so isis is using these references in the hadith to recruit in south asia and to justify its presence there. but isis faces obstacles in afghanistan and pakistan. al qaeda and taliban are well-established in this region. the al qaeda leader has nurtured al qaeda's relationship with the taliban. he have pledged allegiance to mansour. there are definitely obstacles in the long term for isis to make serious inroads in this region. but in order to fend off this
isis encroachment, zawahiri is seeking inroads in other parts of south asia. in september of 2014 he was seen in a video announcing the launch of al qaeda in the indian subcontinent. he assures people in india, bangladesh and burma that, quote, the organization did not forget you and they are doing what they can to rescue you from injustice, oppression, prosecutors couoppression, persecution and suffering. a series of attacks in bangladesh has raised fierce that indeed international terrorists may be making inroads into that country. there was an attack in late september on an italian aid worker. 5 days later, a japanese agricultural worker in northern bangladesh was gunned down. and this followed horrific
machete attraction on five secular bloggers in bangladesh since the beginning of the year. another indication that isis is trying to make inroads into bangladesh was the publishing of a five-page article in its flagship magazine called "the e revival of jihad in bengal." during congressional testimony that i had given in april, i warned that the political turmoil in bangladesh threatened to derail the social and economic gains that country has made over the last decade, and that islamist extremists could take advantage of the increased political polarization there. and i think this is what we are seeing play out. while these extremist attacks are happening in bangladesh, the government is executing its political opponents. it's doing it through a war crimes tribunal process that has been criticized by the international community for flaws in the way these trials are being carried out.
so while we've seen a reduction in political violence more recently in bangladesh, there has been no resolution to the problems there. and these really go back to the january 2014 elections, where the current prime minister moved forward with elections despite the fact that the opposition boycotted them and half of the seats in the parliament went uncontested. so bangladesh, this country that we had previously held up as a model muslim majority democracy, having made important social and economic gains over the last decade, now i think, you know, we're worried that it could become the next hotbed for terrorism and extremism. so i think it certainly deserves more u.s. attention. and i would like to see the u.s. become more assertive in encouraging political dialogue
between the current government and the political opposition so that we can avoid this situation. so i'll just stop there. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> i think i'll just speak from here. i would like to focus my remarks on isis, the islamic state in iraq and syria. my mike is on. can you hear okay? okay. isis is now primarily a regional threat. but it's metastasizing rapidly and extending tentacles and soon could become a long term global threat, if it's allowed to consolidate its power and to control over territory. i would argue that isis in the long run poses a greater potential threat than the al qaeda core group presently hunkered down in the tribal bad lands of pakistan and
afghanistan for at least three reasons. first, it's lodged in the heart of the arab world, unlike the core group, which is the back of the beyond, the fringe. that's important because al qaeda and isis are primarily arab organizations, and their short term targets are the arab states. and this control of territory, a little smaller than maryland, enables isis to attract, recruit, and train not only arabs from the surrounding area but muslim militants from europe and even the united states. this makes it, although it hasn't staged the kind of terrorist attacks that al qaeda has in the past, i think it soon could surpass and eclipse al qaeda on that front.
secondly, isis is the richest terrorist group in the world, or it's been called that. its turf is located in close proximity to enormous oil resources, primarily in eastern syria, but also some in iraq. it was estimated at its height to be making about $3 million in oil smuggling profits a day. this amounted to more than $1 billion a year at its peak in mid-2014. now it's believed to be reduced to roughly less than half of that. according to u.s. intelligence, officials cited in the "new york times" on sunday, the oil revenues are now approximately $500 million a year, but more importantly, it makes roughly up to $900 million a year through its control over people, property, and economic life in western iraq and eastern syria.
it attacks individuals and businesses, farmers, crops, livestock. it collects rent from government buildings and collects payments for utilities it seizes. it's looted banks, confiscated the property of religious minorities that it despises. it's kidnapped hostages and collected millions in ransoms, enslaved yazidi women and sold them as sex slaves, smuggled goods in and out of its territory, including archeological artifacts that it fence fences, and even imposes fines for traffic violations, for smoking, and for bad dressing. the islamic state, i would argue, has an economic model very similar to the mafia. it's essentially a protection
racquet. that shouldn't be surprising, given that its founder was converted to islamist extremism in a jordanian prison where he was a gang enforcer, and that his islamic movement has recruited other criminal networks and recruited in prisons, not only in iraq, where kambuqa, one of his successors as leader of isis was in kambuqa, the u.s. prison. and now we know from the paris attacks that isis has recruited among criminal networks in france and belgium. and indeed, prisons historically have been an important vector for the spreading of islamist extremism in many countries, including our own. that's something that needs to be watched. thirdly, the islamic state has
greater religious appeal than al qaeda. last year it proclaimed a caliphate. that means it claims to be not just an islamic state, but the islamic state that was founded by the prophet mohammed. this dubious claim has triggered a backlash among sunni religious and political leaders, islamic scholars that scoff at it. and even from al qaeda, from which it has drifted away. but this claim of religious legitimacy, as flawed as it is, has helped it to attract and recruit followers among impressionable young muslims. more than 30,000 supporters from over a hundred countries have flocked to this so-called caliphate. its leader, al baghdadi, represents a new generation of leadership who claims more religious credentials than previous al qaeda leaders, including descent from the
profit mohammed. he's charismatic and mysterious and able to excite the imaginations of young muslims. he has far more popular appeal than al zwahari. his message is amplified by a sophisticated propaganda operation mounted on social media platforms that particularly appeal to young people, specifically young muslims in the west. like osama bin laden, he seeks to transform what is essentially a clash within islamic civilization into a clash of civilizations, islam against the west, with him leading as the champion of islam. baghdadi fashions himself not only as the successor to bin laden but also as the successor
of the prophet mohammed, and he's renamed himself as caliph ibrahim. it's a magnet for foreign fighters and has enabled isis to feast on the corpses of failed and failing states, not just in iraq and syria, but it has spread and claimed the allegiance of preexisting islamist groups in libya, egypt, jordan, lebanon, saudi arabia, and afghanistan and pakistan. even boko haram in nigeria has pledged allegiance. today, isis, al qaeda, and its affiliated organizations, command more terrorists and control more territory in the middle east and north africa and around the world than ever before. the u.s. policy response, unfortunately, has been too
little, too late. from the beginning, the obama administration misunderstood and underestimated the threat posed by al qaeda and its isis offshoot in iraq. president obama allowed short term political considerations to trump long term national security interests when he abruptly ended the u.s. military presence in iraq in december of 2011. that deprived the iraqi government of intelligence, military training, counterterrorism, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets that allowed isis to grow in a much more per missive environment. the administration downplayed the progress of isis last year with the president famously telling a reporter that isis was the jv team. after this complacent disdain was exposed as wishful thinking,
isis took a large city in 2015, the white house carried out measures in a piecemeal fashion. it initially committed security advisors to retrain the shattered iraqi army. gradually it's increased the number of these advisors to about 3,500. but the overall effort to combat isis remains underresourced. this ad hoc, incremental approach is no way to win a war. it didn't work in vietnam and it is not working in iraq and syria today. the administration also has launched a limited air campaign that has proceeded at a leisurely pace with up to three quarters of u.s. war planes at without dropping their bombs because of tight restrictions on targeting, also a lack of reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities. the administration's lack of a
sense of urgency has breathtaking. the president even proclaimed that isis was contained the day before the paris terrorist attacks. it's all the more disturbing because the long string of isis victories has given it an aura of invincibility and attracted a steady stream of foreign fighters who will boost its strength by about a thousand fighters each month. this is why the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, general dunford, admitted earlier this week at a congressional hearing that isis has not yet been contained. this is a conflict against a global islamist insurgency. and in that kind of a conflict, if you're not winning, you're losing. and we're not winning. the white house needs to reconsider its incremental half measures in iraq and devise and implement a coherent strategy
that would more effectively match ends and means in the struggle against isis. so far, it's barred combat operations, or initially it barred combat operations by american ground troops, dragged its feet on deploying advisers, restricted them from being deployed in close proximity to the front lines, and put tight restrictions on the use of air strikes to avoid civilian casualties. that's a laudable goal, but in the long run, this pulling punches in the air war has enabled isis to kill more civilians and attract more fanatic followers. the administration recently announced the deployment of 50 special operations personnel to syria and a larger expeditionary targeting force to iraq. those are fine steps, but, you know, i think they should have been done long ago.
we need to ease some of these political restrictions that have hampered the effectiveness of the military effort and apply a more extensive and intensive air campaign against isis. u.s. military advisors should be embedded in iraqi military units closer to the front lines. u.s. special operations forces should be deployed in greater strength and embedded with kurdish units to coordinate u.s. air strikes. we need to expand on the size and role of u.s. ground forces to include combat missions, to end isis's reign of terror. iraq needs much more help in defeating isis, which already poses a growing regional threat, and a significant threat to the u.s. homeland if it's allowed to consolidate its rule. a tougher, more realistic military strategy needed to be
we hadd wedded to a long term ideological and diplomatic effort. it's important that the islamic state -- it's important to note that isis does not lead a monolithic insurgency, but there are layers of ad hoc elements it has acquired, such as sunni trial leaders who saw which way the wind was blowing and pursued a marriage of convenience with isis, not for ideological reasons but because they saw isis as a lesser evil compared to unresponsive governments in baghdad and damascus. although it gets all the headlines, isis relies on these allies. and they need to be peeled away if isis is going to be defeated. i think we need to exploit its
achilles heel, the fact that its extremism alienates all the people forced to live under its harsh rule. the u.s. and its allies should be driving wedges between isis and less radical groups to siphon off support, particularly from the sunni arab tribes who are chafing increasingly under isis rule. but the tribes will not defect unless they see a concerted and effective sign that the u.s. is involved and that the tide is turning, and that they can count on sustained u.s. support and protection in the aftermath. ultimately, the obama administration i think is right that the iraqis and syrians need to do the heavy lifting on the ground. but firm u.s. leadership is needed to escalate the coalition of military efforts and provide more effective support for them in their anti-isis efforts.
washington also must lead harder on baghdad to pressure it to rein in shia militias, reach out to sunni tribal leaders and give them a reason to turn against isis. the war in syria is going to be much more difficult in part because we don't have -- we lack reliable allies that we've already worked with on the ground. but the u.s. needs to strengthen the elements of the syrian rebel coalition that are opposed to isis and prepare for an end game that will cement a sustainable political structure within syria after the geopolitical kaleidoscope is twisted once again with more effective military action against isis. that may come, hopefully in this administration, but if not, the next administration. so the bottom line, i would say, is that this administration has been in denial about the persistent threat posed by islamic extremists, particularly
isis. it has done too little, too late to halt the troubling trends we see in the region today. thank you. [ applause ] >> i'll follow jim's example and remain seated. also my challenge is to avoid repeating what my fellow colleagues on the panel have said. let me begin at the risk of stating the obvious by saying, gosh, how different everything looks today compared to four and a half years ago when we were repeatedly assured that al qaeda was on the verge of strategic collapse. firstly, and i suppose i may disagree slightly from jim in this perspective, i think al qaeda remains as much of a threat as isis is. one can see that in the fact that al qaeda is present in more places today than it's ever been before. it currently has at least 17 major networks or affiliates and associates. more than double the number it
had in 2008. and i think that the addition of al qaeda in the indian subcontinent which lisa talked about is a particularly dangerous and pernicious threat despite the as quote, unquote, a publicity stunt. second, as we all know, even more worrisome than al qaeda's longevity and stubborn resilience has been the emergence of isis. whether it's al qaeda or isis, i come to the third point, that the jihadi message remains unfortunately both compelling -- or remains compelling and sorry, both brands continue to resonate. in fact, i would say in isis' case, its message is fairly simple, which means it's extraordinarily difficult for us to counster. it's become akin to the wretched of the earth, a classic text from some 60 years ago when it was described the cathartic cleansing, self-satisfying effects of violence at a hated
and dreaded enemy. today what we see is that same sort of ideology and sentiment taking root and, in fact, the bloodier, the more shocking and the more heinous the violence, the more attractive it is to those who rally to isis' and al qaeda's banner. at the end of the day, how to you quick actively counter a narrative based on the message of the cleansing and positive effects of violence? this feeds off the increasing sec taran basis of the messaging of both groups that see themselves in the apocalyptic struggle against their foremost enemy, the shia, but also against the west and the united states. and unfortunately, we have seen in the past couple years the enormous power of social media. the way that it underpins, facilitates and encourages foreign fighters. a recent report of the u.s. house of representatives homeland security committee estimated that the number of foreign fighters that have
rallied to syria and lebanon -- i'm sorry, syria and iraq is upwards of 25,000 individuals drawn from some 80 countries throughout the world. i think these two developments in particular, the resonance of their -- of their jihadi message, the continued appeal of their brand and this large number of foreign fighters ensures that this struggle will continue for years. and finally, we have to look at ourselves, too. obviously, in the events in san bernardino over the past few days demonstrate that we're in a highly fluid and enormously complicated environment. but perhaps the complications are greatest, because the threat has grown, and is growing at a moment when our resources and even our political will to engage this enemy has either contracted or diminished. so that's one of the fundamental challenges we face. sadly, as i wrote recently in the cipher brief, if bin laden
were still alive, he would likely be a very happy man. firstly, in 1998, in a newspaper interview, he said that he welcomed his death, that he looked forward to his opportunity for martyrdom, because he was supremely confident that his death would produce thousands of moro sammees. certainly we have seen around the world an exponentially greater problem, certainly greater numbers than existed in the 12 years al qaeda was active for 13 years, al qaeda was active in afghanistan, is proof of the realization of one of his hopes. secondly, if you recall that thimbleful of documents that was initially released in may 2012, there were 17 documents, and a lot was made of one of the documents where bin laden complains about that al qaeda has been misunderstood and that he has to rebrand the organization to show that it wasn't only about terrorism and about using force, but that it also had a political agenda. i would argue that dream or that
impairive of bin laden has been realized. look how infrequently we use the al qaeda name now. no one calls al qaeda's active arm in syria. instead we call it the nusra fund. similar similarly, we discuss the group, al qaeda's four deployed operational arm. we again refer to it as a moniker. and there's any number of groups in syria, aurora sham amongst them that are clearly jihadi, and clearly allied with al qaeda, but yet we refer to them in these far more an owe dine and object few skating terms. so he's obviously achieving the rebranding of al qaeda. thirdly in september 2010, bin laden called on his affiliates and associates to carry out mumbai style attacks in europe. there were no takers, because no groups were capable of mounting those types of attacks, as hard as the desire might have been.
of course with the attacks against charlie hebdo last january and last month with the attacks in paris, the mumbai stale attacks have now materialized. and finally, bin laden would be very content to see i'm an al zawahiri's from his infamous knights under the banner published in december 2001 at an undeniably low point in al qaeda's history where he called on al qaeda's followers, ack owe lights and sympathizers throughout the world to carry out attacks on behalf of the al qaeda cause in their own homeland which of course isis' spokesman adopted for himself a year ago september. we potentially see this having materialized in the united states recently and in other countries certainly in recent months. against this backdrop, i would argue that al qaeda is quietly rebuilding, and very happily sees isis garnering all of the
attention and taking all of the heat. al qaeda has not gone away, and the fact that obscured in the back pages of newspapers this morning, is that al qaeda in the arabian peninsula has seized two more cities in yemen, thus extending its governance and control. let me move on to some of the implications for the future and wrap-up here in some of what should be some of our policy responses. one of the dimensions of the current evolution of this struggle is that, at least in my view, the distinction between terrorism insurgency and the conventional warfare capabilities of our adversaries is eroding. groups like al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, the nusra front and isis are now as capable if not more capable than the established emptimilitaries the conventional regions in which they operate. each of them has seized and held territory, has exercised some form of governance and
sovereignty. and at the moment, there's no real signs of any of them being pushed back. or having any of that territory taken away from them. the arab spring, of course, has resulted in a series of disstabilized governments across north africa and the middle east that we have to admit now have led reluctantly to the terrorist threat. and not only the terrorist threat, but to the proliferation of sanctuary and safe haven. 30 years ago, prime minister margaret thatcher said that publicity is the oxygen upon which terrorists depend. that was the cold war formulation. in the 21st century, sanctuary and safe haven is what terrorists depend. in the past years, terrorist access to sanctuary and safe haven across north africa and the militanddle east has only increased. what worries me the most is if past history is any example, once these types of adversaries have access to sanctuary and
safe haven, they develop the capabilities or the research and development capabilities to engage in experimentation with unconventional weapons. we have already seen isis on innumerable occasions, use chemical weapons against innocent civilians. one has to wonder how long that particular weapon and tactical will remain confined to the will he le vant. the foreign fighters is not exclusive to iraq. foreign fighters are being trained and deployed today in afghanistan, pakistan, libya, somali, leb an and mali. in terms of our response, jim went over quite a bit of this, so i don't have to repeat it. all to the good now that a special operations task force, more specific operations forces in recent weeks are being deployed to iraq. the point is, if i'm right we face this hybrid threat of
terrorist, conventional warfare, entities with those capabilities, the problem is that direct action and special operations is really only relevant to counterterrorism. not to taking on hybrid areas such as the groups i've described. first and foremost, our imperative must be decisively rolling isis back from the territory that it seized in western iraq. i think without its diminishment, without its territory and land taken away, that's the best way to counter its narrative, and to diminish its allure and power of attraction. similarly as jim and others have discussed, we need a much more concerted effort to undermine the logistical infrastructure that sustains and supports terrorism. the bombing of oil fields or of isis' oil capacity is all to the well and good, but i would argue that at the anemic level it's currently being conducted, it's having no long-term strategic effect.
in fact, it takes isis about two weeks to once again start pumping many of the targets that we attack and at a cost of only $200,000 to be able to once again draw oil out of the ground and transport it. we have to enjoin our regional partners, and especially our nato allies to view the threat as seriously as it must be viewed. in this respect, u.s. leadership is absolutely critical and i would argue turkey is going to be an enormously important test case. in many respects, the problems and the travails we experienced in pakistan and south asia over the past decade and a half are being replicated with turkey. turkey, of course, is a nato ally. finally, i think we need to develop an effective strategy to measure effectiveness against the one i think most important dimension of the terrorist threat. and that's their ability to spawn franchises or affiliates and associates or